Types of mint: refreshing types & varieties for the garden and balcony
Mint is an absolute classic in the herb bed. We present the best and most aromatic types of mint and show what makes them different from each other.
Everyone knows the peppermint. But have you ever heard of pineapple mint or chocolate mint? The genus of mint (Mentha) comprises around 30 species and is therefore extremely diverse. So why not try a new type of mint in your own garden or on the windowsill? We give you an overview of the most exciting species.
- The best mint species and varieties
- Classic types of mint
- Tea mint varieties
- Wild mints
- Mint varieties with a special aroma
- Lemon mint (Mentha gentilis var. citrata)
- Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata)
- Orange mint (Mentha piperita var. citrata ‘Orangina’)
- Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita var. piperita ‘Chocolate’)
- Basil mint (Mentha × piperita var. citrata ‘Basil’)
- Strawberry mint (Mentha species ‘Strawberry’)
- Banana mint (Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’)
- Common features of the different types of mint
The best mint species and varieties
Mints belong to the Labiatae family (Lamiaceae) and are popular in herb beds or in pots on balconies, windowsills and terraces. This is no wonder because mints not only smell wonderful, they can also be creatively processed in the kitchen. The healing properties of mint have been known for a long time and are said to help with ailments such as gastrointestinal pain, colds, headaches and muscle aches.
In a verse by Walahfrid Strabo from the 9th century it is said that if one wanted to name the many species and names of mint, he would have to list as many as there are fish in the sea. Although there are not quite that many, the mint genus is extensive and new varieties are always being bred.
The following is an overview of mint classics: mints that are very good for tea, mints that are mainly found wild, and more exotic mints with special flavours.
Classic types of mint
You have probably heard of the following five types of mint. You can’t really go wrong with them – but it is certainly worthwhile to find out more about these well-tried species. Did you know, for example, that pennyroyal is poisonous?
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Peppermint is the classic among the mint varieties and is often found in gardens and on balconies. However, it is unclear where this type of mint originally comes from. What is certain is that it is a cross between the brook mint (Mentha aquatica) and the green mint (Mentha spicata). It is valued above all for its high menthol content and its peppery-spicy aroma. In cultivation, it is undemanding, perennial and hardy.
A separate overview of peppermint varieties can be found here in our special article.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata Syn. Mentha viridis)
Even if the name is not that common, spearmint is arguably the most commonly used of the mint varieties. It is this type of mint that gives toothpaste, chewing gum or sweets their minty taste. It originally comes from Europe but is now also widespread in large parts of Asia and Africa. Spearmint is very fast-growing and runner-forming. It can grow up to 130 cm tall. Spearmint blooms in white and purple from July to September.
Water mint or brook mint (Mentha aquatica)
Both the names water mint and brook mint refer to the same type of mint: Mentha aquatica. It originated in Europe and is now found in large parts of Africa and Europe. As the name suggests, this mint enjoys wet conditions. That is why they are mainly found in the wild on banks, ditches, moors and wet meadows. The peculiarity of the seeds of this type of mint is that they only spread over the water. Water mint grows about 50 to 60 cm tall, forms spherical, light purple inflorescences between July and August, and is well suited for planting along pond edges in the garden.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
This mint species can grow 10 to 50 cm tall and bears delicate purple flowers from May to September. Pennyroyal looks very similar to peppermint. However, caution is advised as the pennyroyal is poisonous. While the stamens of peppermint are as long as the petals, the stamens of pennyroyal extend well beyond the tubularly fused petals. In the past, pennyroyal was still used as a remedy, but today it is not used due to its toxicity. The pennyroyal should not be picked as it is under nature protection and classified as endangered on the Red List. In the garden, it is well suited for the fragrance bed.
Mojito mint (Mentha nemorosa)
Mojito Mint is also called Hemingway mint or cocktail mint. The reason is obvious: the aromatic herb is often used to mix refreshing cocktails and drinks such as Mojito or Hugo. It was probably the result of a cross between Mentha spicata and Mentha suaveolens. Mojito mint grows between 40 and 80 cm tall and is very fast-growing. In summer, from early July to late August, it also blooms bright purple and attracts numerous insects.
Tea mint varieties
The next four types of mint have a long tradition in countries where tea drinking plays an important role. No wonder, then, that these mints are all particularly good for making tea.
Moroccan mint (Mentha spicata var. crispa Morocco)
Moroccan mint originates from North Africa. As the name suggests, it is very appreciated especially in Morocco and drunk as tea with a lot of sugar. But it is not only the cooling, refreshing taste that makes this mint so popular, but also its compact growth and easy care. Moroccan mint grows between 30 and 60 cm tall, the leaves are lanceolate and jagged at the edges. The flowers of the Moroccan mint are delicate purple.
Nanamint (Mentha spicata var. crispa ‘Nane’)
The name nana mint can actually refer to three types of mint: the species Mentha spicata var. crispa ‘Nane’ or Mentha x piperita var. piperita ‘Nana’ – and also the Moroccan mint described above is sometimes called nana mint. However, the actual nana mint is Mentha spicata var. crispa ‘Nane’.
Nana mint is often also known as Turkish mint, since there and in North Africa it is often drunk in combination with black tea and sugar. In these regions, it is also often used to flavour oriental dishes. It can grow 30 to 60 cm tall, is perennial and hardy. The flowers of Turkish mint are white-pink and appear from July.
English mint (Mentha × piperita ‘Mitcham’)
English mint is an old cultivated form from England from the Mitcham area. It is probably an accidental cross of a garden mint with wild water mint (Mentha aquatica). This type of mint is characterised by its intense flavour with a lot of spiciness. It is therefore used for tea, soups and desserts. The leaves of English mint are green and turn red. The plants grow up to 80 cm tall, are perennial and strong-growing. The flower appears between July and August.
Apple mint or round-leaved mint (Mentha suaveolens)
Apple mint is also called round-leaved mint. This is due to its specially shaped leaves: namely, they are oval. It is called apple mint because its leaves actually smell and taste like apple. Because of its mild aroma, apple mint is well suited for teas. Nowadays, apple mint is widespread in large parts of China, Turkey, North Africa and Central Europe. Apple mint can grow up to 100 cm tall and is extremely vigorous. It blooms lilac in the summer. It also likes it moist and is therefore often found in wet meadows, wet roadsides or along ditches, but also tolerates dryness better than many other mint species.
The following mints can all be discovered in the wild – in fields or along paths. Nevertheless, they can of course also be planted and cultivated in the garden or in pots.
Field mint (Mentha arvensis)
Field mint is also called corn mint and is a wild mint species. It is common in all temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. The plant usually grows from 5 to 30 cm tall and blooms pink to purple. It prefers moist, nutrient-rich sites and is less vigorous than its cultivated siblings.
Horse mint (Mentha longifolia)
The native horse mint is also called forest mint and is found in the temperate zones of Eurasia to Southern Africa. In Central Europe, it is often found in low mountain ranges and in the lower altitudes of the Alps. It needs wet, nitrogen-rich soil to grow well. Therefore, it is often encountered near rivers or next to agricultural land. The long-leaved, fluffy-haired horse mint grows up to 130 cm tall and bears pink to purple flowers between July and September.
Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
Corsican mint is also called tender mint and is found only on three islands in the Mediterranean: Corsica, of course, but also Sardinia and Montecristo. The peculiarity of this type of mint is that it does not grow upright, but rather like a carpet. It forms lawns and gives off an intense, pungent odour. This mint is also used to make the Crème de Menthe liqueur. Due to its Mediterranean origin, Corsican mint is not hardy and therefore needs protection in the cold season.
Mint varieties with a special aroma
The following seven types of mint all have one thing in common: they not only smell and taste like mint, but also have a completely different aroma.
Lemon mint (Mentha gentilis var. citrata)
Another mint that was given its name because of its aroma is lemon mint. Indeed, its leaves exude an intense citrus smell. It is therefore ideal for teas, lemonades, desserts and cocktails. Lemon mint can grow up to 40 cm tall, is perennial and hardy.
Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens variegata)
The leaves of the pineapple mint actually give off a slight pineapple aroma. It is therefore particularly suitable for desserts, punch or cocktails. The leaves of this mint species are also striking: they are variegated green and cream-coloured. Thus, the pineapple mint is a real eye-catcher in the bed or pot. However, it is not completely hardy in all areas and should be overwintered indoors. At about 25 to 60 cm tall, pineapple mint is also not as fast-growing as other mint species.
Orange mint (Mentha piperita var. citrata ‘Orangina’)
Orange mint also exudes an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of bergamot or Earl Grey. It is therefore well suited for cooking, for example, with sauces or vegetables. Orange mint grows 50 to 80 cm tall and almost as wide. It produces purple flowers on dark red stems from July to September. Orange mint is very fast-growing and spreads quickly in the garden. The aroma of orange mint develops best in the sun, which is why it is also suitable as a container plant for sunny balconies.
Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita var. piperita ‘Chocolate’)
If you like mint chocolate or After Eight, you will love this type of mint. Namely, it combines mint and chocolate aromas in one plant. However, the aroma is very subtle, not too intense and is perceived differently by everyone. Chocolate mint may smell and taste intensely of chocolate to one person, while another may not notice the smell at all. Chocolate mint plants grow between 40 and 60 cm tall and bloom bright purple from July to September.
Basil mint (Mentha × piperita var. citrata ‘Basil’)
Another mint with a special aroma is basil mint. The taste is very reminiscent of basil, the smell of Italian dishes. The name Bastardo is also Italian, as basil mint is also called. The scent and taste of the leaves are nevertheless still very minty and also slightly peppery. The red-stemmed mint is wonderful for salads, sauces and pestos. Basil mint grows 40 to 70 cm tall and can grow up to 1 m wide.
Strawberry mint (Mentha species ‘Strawberry’)
Another rarity among the mints: the strawberry mint. This one actually tastes almost nothing like mint, but – you guessed it – strawberries. It is good to use in the kitchen for teas, lemonades or cocktails. Strawberry mint plants grow only 30 to 50 cm tall and bloom pink, but often spread strongly by runners.
Banana mint (Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’)
The banana mint is a variation of field mint (Mentha arvensis). This was grown in France and the leaves actually give off an intense smell of bananas. You can experiment with the herb in the kitchen and use it for desserts or drinks. Plants of banana mint are small, grow 30-50 cm tall and also do not spread excessively.
Common features of the different types of mint
Although there are more than 30 species of mint with different properties and flavours, the different species have a lot in common: first of all, their appearance. Of course, individual species and varieties differ in appearance, but many mints look very similar. So you don’t have to be an expert to spot a member of the mint genus.
Determining the respective species is a lot more difficult. Almost all types of mint are also very vigorous and spread – mostly unintentionally – very quickly. Another common feature is that mints are perennial plants. In addition, most (with exceptions) are hardy. Likewise, all types of mint are low-maintenance and easy to grow, so that everyone can cultivate mint. The mints are also very similar in terms of location requirements: almost all of them appreciate a semi-shaded place with fresh, moist soil. Last but not least, all mints contain essential oils that give them their aroma.
What do the different types of mint have in common?
- Similar appearance
- Fast growing and stoloniferous
- Perennial and hardy
- Easy to look after
- Habitat requirements: partial shade; fresh, moist soil
- Essential oils, especially menthol
Now that you’ve decided on one or more types of mint to grow yourself, here are 10 useful tips for growing mint.